New York, May 9, 2019 — The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about the safety of Mohamed al-Qurj and Mohamed al-Shibani, Libyan journalists with Qatar-based private television broadcaster Libya Alahrar, who disappeared on May 2.
Libya Alahrar lost contact with al-Qurj, a reporter, and al-Shibani, a photographer, while the journalists were covering clashes in Tripoli, according to a statement by the broadcaster and news reports. According to those reports, the journalists’ whereabouts are unknown.
In its statement, Libya Alahrar alleged that the journalists had been abducted by the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Hifter. On May 3, a Facebook page attributed to a Libyan National Army brigade claimed to have the journalists in custody.
Libya Alahrar did not respond to an email and Facebook message from CPJ. CPJ’s emailed request for comment to the Libyan National Army and message to the brigade’s Facebook page went unanswered.
“Intensified fighting in Libya can only make a very dangerous environment for journalists worse. We call on all sides to take every step to protect journalists and respect their status as civilians,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Whoever is holding Mohamed al-Qurj and Mohamed al-Shibani–be it the Libyan National Army, its affiliates, or any other group–should release them immediately.”
On May 3, the foreign ministry of the Government of National Accord, the country’s internationally recognized government, which opposes the Libyan National Army, released a statement accusing Hifter’s forces of detaining the journalists, deeming it “contradictory to all international laws and accords that protect journalists during turmoil and wars.”
In January, freelance photographer Mohamed Ben Khalifa was killed while reporting from Tripoli, as CPJ reported at the time.